Tag Archives: morality

Obsession with Puritanical Morality Makes for a Mess

With age, I get more and more aggravated with some folks hyper-focus on sexuality in Christianity, as there is a ton of important stuff that gets glossed over because of it. There is no need to bend the Greek to English translation of porneia into cultural morality, especially puritanical morality. It is better to let the scriptures stand with the power granted by the word of God, than it is to bend them to align with some imagined historical sexual ethic.

Apart from that, sexual moral failures among the married are explicitly covered by the words of Jesus, for the unmarried, by the greatest commandments. Consider that the greatest commandments also hit on consent, sexual harassment and assault irrespective of marriage status… thus sexual moral failure is a whole lot more encompassing than a mere violation of puritanical moral standards or modesty codes. One can argue that some errant forms of complementarian marriage practices, patriarchalism, and the idolatry of purity all fall far short of the greatest commandments.

I think of the tweet stream I came across today… its like ????

sexoutsideofmarriage

 

https://twitter.com/MattSmethurst/status/1026866187538522119

No wonder some sectors of Christianity have high levels of marital sexual dysfunction. When humanity is removed from sex and is replaced with objectification and monetary exchange and 1600 folks like it… something is seriously hosed up. Consider that the only difference between prositution and the above is monogamy within the confines of near perfect marriage behaviors (radical self giving and life long commitment), the model is in error. Even worse, when a person who ascribes to such experiences real marriage, rather than a projected idealized form, what happens then? My guess is there is a ton more sexual immorality in marriage than outside of it due to teachings like this.

In fairness to @TimKellerNYC, he presents a pretty decent model for “real life” marriage in the following article. https://relevantmagazine.com/life5/you-never-marry-the-right-person/ which includes a quote from Denis de Rougemont “Why should neurotic, selfish, immature people suddenly become angels when they fall in love … ?” That is why a good marriage is more painfully hard to achieve than athletic or artistic prowess.”

I think back to my younger days working with youth, and remembered I had a youngster ask ” am I going to hell for sleeping with my girlfriend?” Apart from being a bit flabbergasted at the kids age, it was if the prior years teaching on Ephesians 6:8-9 went clear out the window. Apparently some idiot youth pastor was having a field day cherrypicking 1 Cor 6:10…

And while it takes a great deal of effort to get messages past teenage or pragmatically, most any age hormones… we shouldn’t be throwing the scriptures under the bus to do so. We shouldn’t be creating errant sexual ethics which set the stage for future failed relationships and dysfunctional marriages. On the other side of the coin, its important to consider that many will try to bend the scriptures the other direction, in order to give them wiggle room or perhaps even an out to wildly follow their hormones wherever they may lead.

Addressing such is not a simple thing… and it really freaks folks out too. Consider the following from Sarah Moon in response to the Revelant magazine study where it was found that 80% of evangelicals engage in premarital sex..

So I started asking questions in the comments section …. In asking the questions, I learned that no one seemed to have the answers. Instead of answers, I either got harsh judgement or other people who admitted to being just as confused as I was.

But in every comment that told me I was “abusing grace,” that I “must not be very familiar with the Bible,” telling me to “get married earlier, genius!,” to just find a fraternity house where they can set me up with a goat if all I want to do is get laid (FOR REAL), or comments that just listed every verse in the Bible that mentions sexual immorality (while failing to define sexual immorality), all I heard was “I don’t know the answers, and your questions expose that. I don’t know, and that makes me afraid of you.”

As I was unable to find said comment stream to see how this played out… I searched out and found a parallel one. https://urbanfaith.com/2012/07/why-unmarried-christians-are-having-sex.html/

And thus honest conversations about Christians and sexuality hardly ever occur. I remember reading over an evangelical friends premarital counseling guidebook… and thinking, well, 80% of evangelicals have premarital sex… so why on earth are they devoting 3 chapters to abstinence teachings? I guess it might be why 1600 likes showed up on the above tweet. Perhaps Its a comfortable place and such makes it easy to compartmentalize abstinence to the 3 weeks of class, followed by ignoring it… but how does such truly help young couples get on the path to a healthy marriage? How does it help singles of any age develop good relationships irrespective of whether they lead to marriage or not? What about those who are perpetually single? What about married couples experiencing sexual dysfunction due to an errant ‘Christian’ sexual ethic?

These are the sort of things where candid discussions needs to occur… near exclusive focus on a puritanical sexual ethic is missing the point, no matter how comfortable it may be.

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Some reference sites:

https://relevantmagazine.com/life/relationships/why-you-should-stop-searching–one-new

https://relevantmagazine.com/life/millennials-dont-want-your-sex-now-heres-why

https://religionnews.com/2016/07/21/sex-outside-of-marriage-can-be-holy-according-to-this-minister/

https://boards.weddingbee.com/topic/good-christian-pre-marital-sex-impossible/page/2

https://urbanfaith.com/2012/07/why-unmarried-christians-are-having-sex.html/

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/23/evangelicals-sex-frank-talk_n_1443062.html

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/christianity-and-sex_us_56cb6dc1e4b0ec6725e371d5

http://thesaltcollective.org/4-reasons-to-have-premarital-sex-with-your-evangelical-college/

https://religionnews.com/2016/07/21/sex-outside-of-marriage-can-be-holy-according-to-this-minister/

http://www.thechristianleftblog.org/blog-home/premarital-sex-is-it-a-sin-or-not

Youthful lusts, Its really not about sex

I came across 2 Timothy 2:22 in my previous writings on temptation, and wondered what Paul was talking about when he brings up youthful lusts. As such, I pulled up Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown to see what they had to say.

There are many lusts from which our greatest safety is in flight (Ge 39:12). Avoid occasions of sin. From the abstemious character of Timothy (1Ti 5:23) it is likely that not animal indulgences, but the impetuosity, rash self-confidence, hastiness, strife, and vainglory of young men (1 John 2:14-16), are what he is here warned against: though the Spirit probably intended the warning to include both in its application to the Church in general.

Which then prompted a further study on the matter. Like a lot of things contest is key… this verse is in the midst of a lot of context, none of which, even when pulled and stretched seems to connect with sexual morality, or as the commentators state animal indulgences.

It seems to be reasonably clear this section of scripture is about dysfunctions related to youthful exhuberance. Ie, jumping the gun, trying to teach before one is ready, or has earned the right to do so, being overconfident, or focusing on appearance rather than substance. Paul Penley seems to knock this out of the ballpark with his The “lust” all young people have, and how we missed it do to bad Bible interpretation. As an older guy looking back at his younger days, his post seems spot on.

Fortunately there were some exceedingly patient oldsters who pulled me aside and said hey, think about this. Had they not stepped up, I might well have become one of those Bible bashers, the ones who angrily say, the scripture clearly says…. except that the Greek to English translation is a whole lot more grey than black and white so say nothing about the bit where we see things dimly, even apart from translation issues.

Consider the ramifications of 1 Timothy 1:6 with respect to youthful lusts. For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions.

Even beyond warning against such, 1 Tim 2:22 is also a very clear warning against lone rangering (to go it alone), rather than to study and practice Christianity in community. I think of the extreme out there conspiracy theories and strange theology types I used to run across when I co-led CF. Such folks often believe they have the absolute truth, and only theirs is the correct path even though, in most cases, such is a repeat of failed ancient beliefs or practices… Its as if the promoters of such never studied history, or perhaps worse, never had a person call them aside to say hey, you know XYZW taught something like that way back when and it didn’t work out too well.

I’ve seen related issues of overconfidence and lone-rangering play out in some deliverence ministries, where in folks get in very far over their head and get really jammed up. Its not just missing medical or psychological issues either, deliverence much less major exorcisms are nothing for the unprepared to mess around with . I even had a pastor friend who despite decades of education and experience in said arena ended up in a whole lot of hurt.

A unique aspect of studying and practice in community is challenge and engagement with failure. As a young long ranger, its pretty easy to coast along, and not get tested a whole lot. However when studying and practicing in community, ideas will get poked at prodded at. In such a model, errant theology is more likely to fall by the wayside, or at minimum, ideas will be highly scrutinized. Another aspect of study and practire in community is that its usually broken community. The temptation to power trip, to quarrel, or even to throw selected words of Jesus under the bus is a clear and present danger #churchtoo for example… but such is also where community can pick itself up and dust itself and its members off. Granted, there is a fair bit of idealism in that statement. Some communities can and do shred their must vulnerable members.

The lost of Christian Consciousness in the US

Christian morality has been a driver of public policy since the days of Constantine, but I think somehow we are loosing collective Christian consciousness. Granted, history is filled with Christianity doing crash and burns… but I tend to think as Shaun Grove stated, something has changed.

A friend of mine with Mennonite roots was pondering along that line of thinking a while back too. He suggests that the last 2 generations of Christians have presented worldviews where:

Forgiveness is replaced by Vengeance

Peace is replaced with anger.

Love is replaced with mean-spiritedness

Faith is replaced with Fear

I’ve observed the same, and I’ve also noticed situations where folks talk about Judeo Christian values, except that when queried, said values often reflect recent traditions of men or pop psychology, rather than the words of Jesus. I think about the sentiments expressed in a couple recently anti-beatitude songs by U2 .

Blessed are the arrogant,
For theirs is the kingdom of their own company.
Blessed are the superstars,
For the magnificence in their light
We understand better our own insignificance.
Blessed are the filthy rich,
For you can only truly own what you give away,
Like your pain.
Blessed are the bullies,
For one day they will have to stand up to themselves.
Blessed are the liars,
For the truth can be awkward.

As I stated earlier, history is filled with Christianity going off the rails. As little as 50 years ago, Christians took over zoning boards in many US cities and played the discrimination game with housing, intentionally excluding Jews, Muslims, and those of other faiths, or of no faith, to say nothing of matters of class and race. Going back further, consider how Christians have treated native Americans over the years, words in the treaties were rarely worth the paper they were printed on. If we roll back to the time of the Puritans, its almost a replay of the parable of the forgiven debtor. The Puritans left England to pursue religious freedom, only to turn around upon arrival here to persecute the Quakers. And it’s not just an American thing, Calvin had Servais killed, the Catholic church had the crusades… pretty much, if there was a moral high ground held out in the scriptures, Christians throughout the centuries downplayed it in the pursuit of other things.

In today’s world, the words of Jesus about greed and coveting are truly hard to hear as they impact most everyone, as contrasted with ear-tickling morality that rarely rings explicitly personal. As Pastor Shane Holden of First Free says, the Bible mentions greed and caring for the poor many thousands of times, and yet Christianity is not known for its preaching against greed and covetousness. Add in the folks on radio and tv avoiding the same, and is it any wonder that the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus gets buried in the noise, to say nothing about Jesus words about lovings one’s neighbor.

And yet despite the moral failings of Christians, a form of Christian consciousness has always streamed from the pulpit, albeit not without difficulty. I remember a pastor friend told me about preaching about the rich young ruler… with the result that 2-3 wealthy families including a congressman left his church never to return. Another pastor friend of mine got chewed out for being too political when he brought up Matthew 25 in his sermon.

Consider the atheist Bertam Russels words about Ghandi.

“It is doubtful that the efforts of the Mahatma would have succeeded except that he was appealing to the conscience of a Christianized people”

His approach of non-violence ran smack into Christian consciousness… had it not, he likely would have been killed and the status quo would have remained.

But where is this Christian consciousness in today’s world? If its presence is iffy now, will it exist in the future? Consider generation Z and their views of Christianity — from a Barna survey.

For Gen Z, “atheist” is no longer a dirty word: The percentage of teens who identify as such is double that of the general population (13% vs. 6% of all adults). The proportion that identifies as Christian likewise drops from generation to generation.

More than half of Gen Z says church involvement is either “not too” (27%) or “not at all” important (27%). Only one in five says attending church is “very important” to them (20%), the least popular of the four options.